We spoke to Anna Moore for this incredible piece, which Anna worked on with Coco Khan for the Guardian. It’s a must-read on the normalisation of choking in sex, and the use of consent claims in the killing of women and girls.
Jan Wynne-Jones knows almost nothing about her daughter Vicky’s last living moments. She only knows that Vicky, a tall, blond, 25-year-old newlywed who worked as an account manager and who could calculate a balance sheet or assemble a wardrobe without breaking a sweat, was strangled by her husband one night in November in 2009.
Vicky had married Michael Roberts just five months earlier, but the couple had been together for four years and lived close to their families in Warrington, in Cheshire. Jan, her husband and their three other children saw Roberts as part of the family. There had been no “warning signs”, no evidence of abuse or flashes of temper.
According to Roberts, Vicky’s death had been a terrible accident, a “sex game gone wrong”. In court, he pleaded not guilty to her murder, claiming they had been having sex on the sofa with a bathrobe cord around Vicky’s neck and she had instructed him, three times, to “pull tighter”. When she slumped to the floor, he thought she was joking and waited for her to sit up and say, “Boo!” When he realised his wife was dead, he sat in the corner and cried.
“I knew it wasn’t true, but I didn’t want to protest too much,” says Jan. “For three days, we had to sit and listen to him. I thought: ‘Haven’t you done enough?’ There were only two people there when it happened and the jury can only hear from one of them – that’s massive. That’s the thing you can’t change.”
Fortunately, there was ample evidence to speak for Vicky. The pathology report showed her injuries could not have been inflicted by a dressing gown cord and the force used was excessive. Roberts had snapped a hyoid bone in the front of her neck. He hadn’t called an ambulance. He hid Vicky’s body in the garage and told her family she had left him for another man. His phone showed he had been conducting affairs with at least three women, calling one of them constantly on the night in question. A letter written by Vicky was found in the apartment, which revealed that she had discovered something of Roberts’s infidelities and given him a deadline – which fell on the weekend she died.
The jury found Roberts guilty of murder and he was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years. He has never told the truth about what really happened. “He took away Vicky, her choices, her chances, her future,” says Vicky’s sister, Lindsey Wynne-Jones. “And then he took her dignity. Even now, it’s the ‘sex game gone wrong’ that gets focused on. Even though it was disproved, it’s always going to be there.”
Just one month after the trial, another woman – Michelle Stonall – was found strangled with her dog’s lead in Sheldon Country Park, Birmingham. Her killer used the same “sex game” defence. Less than two months after that, Anna Banks, a 25-year-old classroom assistant, was strangled by her boyfriend of four months. Daniel Lancaster claimed that Banks “enjoyed being throttled during intercourse”. He was not found guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and given a four-year sentence.
Since December last year, a group of women have attempted to gather “sex games gone wrong” defence killings under one place – the website We Can’t Consent to This. In the decade since Vicky’s murder, such killings have risen by 90%. Two thirds involve strangulation.
Please do read the full piece here.